In a recent publication in a top diabetes journal, Dutch researchers cited their use of Glasgow-based PAL Technologies’ activPAL™ instrument as a “major strength” in what is the largest study yet undertaken into the cardiometabolic risks from sedentary behaviours using an objective measure of free-living sitting time (2,497 individuals).
The study, published by a research team led by first author Julianne van der Berg and senior author Annemarie Koster from Maastricht University in the journal Diabetologia on 2 February 2016, looked at the amount and patterns of sedentary (sitting or reclining) behaviour in relation to type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. It concluded that an extra hour of sedentary time was associated with increased risk of 22% for type 2 diabetes and 39% for the metabolic syndrome.
PAL Technologies’ CEO Douglas Maxwell said, “We are delighted that our activPAL was chosen for such a large and important trial. There are alternative accelerometers available but ours is the only one which has been proven to accurately quantify posture allocation – that is time spent sedentary or upright. In developing the activPAL we mapped the body and identified the thigh segment as the key body location for a sensor to discriminate the primary activities of lying, sitting, standing and stepping. The information from our instrument has inherent face validity due to the sensor location; because if you know what someone’s thigh is doing, you have a good idea what the rest of their body is doing.”
A crucial element of the Maastricht Study, the largest ever phenotyping study of adults with type 2 diabetes, was the need to be able to rely on, and draw conclusions from, accurate and objective recording of free-living posture allocation (i.e. sitting vs standing). PAL’s activPAL instrument was chosen by the researchers as it has been proven in other trials to be highly accurate. Regarded generally as the gold standard instrument for objective measurement of free-living sedentary behaviour in population studies, the activPAL weighs less than 9 grams and determines physical behaviours (lying, sitting, standing and stepping) based on the movements and position of the wearer’s thigh. In addition, by waterproof attachment directly to the skin it may be worn 24/7 (or longer, 8 days in the case of the Maastricht study). This meant that a complete, continuous data record could be gathered for analysis by the Dutch researchers as wearers had no need to remove the device (e.g. overnight) thereby negating the risk of subjects forgetting to put it back on and valuable data being lost.
“We know of over 800 academic articles and conference presentations featuring the activPAL and it has been used in numerous clinical trials over the years,” Maxwell continued, “but the Maastricht Study is undoubtedly the largest trial using the activPAL to have published their results. It’s a massive vote of confidence in our instrument and we hope these study results will encourage more clinicians to consider using the activPAL in their research.”
Professor Malcolm Granat (University of Salford), one of the inventors of the activPAL said, “When we were developing the technology we were only working with a few handfuls of people after stroke and spinal cord injury and we just wanted to know how they got on when they went home from hospital. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that more than 2,000 people would take part in a study where they wore our instruments.”
PAL was spun-out from the Bioengineering Unit (now the Department of Biomedical Engineering) of the University of Strathclyde in 2001. The activPAL was originally developed for rehabilitation research in order to quantify free-living activities out-with the laboratory or clinic. Subsequently however it has been used by researchers worldwide to investigate the relationship between physical behaviours and disease risk and recovery.
The article “Association of total amount and patterns of sedentary behaviour with type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome: The Maastricht Study” was published online in the journal Diabetologia this month (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-015-3861-8).